At a time when Talend is celebrating its ten years of existence and the success of its IPO, I think it’s interesting to revisit the rich history of the company and pay tribute to those who have contributed to making it a global leader in cloud and big data software. Even if this argument is overused, Talend’s success is essentially due to the women and men who joined in the adventure and who, for the most part, are still part of “the family.” Beyond the choices of its managers, Talend has enjoyed tremendous support from its investors, its board of directors, and, naturally, its customers, partners, and employees.
The Early Years: A Different Approach
We started in France, and at that time, the data integration global market was at a major crossroads. There were spectacular changes taking place in terms of the complexity, volume, and types of data needing to be integrated, as well as varying companies’ needs, particularly around analytics. As we began to develop the Talend platform, our intuition told us that information management would become without question the cornerstone of the corporate information system. Faced with trying to solve for legacy, monolithic IT solutions such as SAP, IBM, Oracle, and the like, we understood that business users’ integration needs would become more and more exacting and specific. However, the solutions proposed were not heading in the direction of affordability. Quite the contrary, they were becoming increasingly costly and unwieldy to deploy.
Confronted with firmly established vendors developing proprietary and thus closed approaches, we put our money on disrupting the established order, reigning technologies, business models, and market positioning. Contrary to the practices at the time, we chose to align ourselves with open source and a distributed rather than centralized architecture. We opted for pricing based on the number of users rather than data volumes or CPU usage. Thus, from the very beginning, we adopted for a global rather than local approach. In hindsight, these choices seem obvious. Trust me that was not the case in 2005 at a time when Red Hat and Salesforce.com were just emerging as market innovators.
Although we were convinced that our vision was right, two individuals were key in validating and supporting this approach – Régis Saleur at Galileo Partners and Jean-François Galloüin at AGF Private Equity (now IdInvest), our first investors. Contrary to customary market practices (to my knowledge, no open source publisher at the time received financial support equivalent to what we got) they truly fought to get the deal and their initial support was critical to our long-term success.
As well as the support of our first investors, customers have also played a decisive role in the early years at Talend. One of his best references will undoubtedly remain Citi, the retail banking operation of Citibank. They saw a great opportunity in the area of analytics with the ability to examine far greater volumes of data than ever before thanks to Hadoop. Our experience working with Citi was highly valuable and the beginning of establishing Talend’s reputation as a leader on Hadoop.
Maturity and More (Continuous) Choices
Following the launch of our first solution in October 2006, we became aware that a large proportion of our downloads were coming from the U.S., which we viewed as a golden opportunity to gain momentum in the region. To explain, unlike traditional technology companies that need to spend money on promotions in order to gain sales leads, open source companies such as Talend gain these leads by offering free open source and trial versions of their products.
Of course, beyond the commercial opportunity of having download leads, setting up shop in Silicon Valley was also a necessity for building a supporting ecosystem. So, by 2008, we opened our first office in Silicon Valley with the idea of furthering our core of corporate strategy rather than simply as a way to raise funds.
As we continued to grow, we tried to recruit the best – strong individuals that had the ability to work together. Demanding as we were, our employees in return were joining a company with a very strong corporate culture, personality, and environment based on respect, ambition, and personal excellence. The result: The first 15 developers we recruited in Talend’s history are still with the company today. Beyond skills alone, we are just as attached to the mindset of our future employees now as we were then. This recipe has proven to be successful.
This human component is also found in the choices of our investors, as noted above, and in those of the members of our board of directors. There too, we were seeking the very best. Bernard Liautaud, the founder of Business Objects, clearly and uniquely fits this mold having created a company in France and fully developing it in the United States. In addition, we had other strong characters by our side such as Peter Gyenes, the founder of Ascential Software, and a leading authority on our market. This diversity of talent engendered complexity in terms of management, challenges, and ambitions, but it also allowed us to develop rapidly (on average, the company approximately doubled in size every year).
Finally, we immediately “sensed” the importance of the technological breakthrough brought by Big Data. We planned a few years back that sooner or later, the Big Data market opportunity would materialize. This last shift was particularly important for our partners like Apache and us. Together we have contributed to democratizing access to analytics and data integration solutions.
An Eye on the Future
People often ask me if I have any regrets. The answer that first comes to mind is “no.” Of course, we made a few mistakes, as does every innovative enterprise. Our path could certainly have been smoother at times. We preferred to be humble enough to recognize our mistakes and correct them immediately. We were not striving to become supermen, but simply, attempting to excel.
Talend is now listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. This major event in the company’s existence is far from the end of the adventure. It is a crucial step that, on the one hand, validates the relevance of our initial vision, and on the other, creates a huge opportunity moving forward. The foundation we created in the early days is very strong, and there’s no need to completely re-invent the wheel as a public company.
In my opinion, the key is for Talend to stay the course of innovation given how rapidly the market is evolving. Business cases are no longer as important as they once were. Data forms the core of all business processes, but most companies have yet to fully recognize the benefits, so the future market potential is significant.
By creating Talend in late 2005, we opened up a range of possibilities. These past ten years have been unique, and I would like to say thanks to all those who have contributed and will continue to contribute to our success. I believe even with all that the company has achieved to date that the next ten can be even more successful as the company realizes its full market potential.